Receiving or paying the proper amount of child support may be the most important factor in determining the future wellbeing of your household. Child support payments will generally last until the child has reached the age of 19, are easier to initially determine than to later modify, and up-front effort should be made to create a reasonable long term payment arrangement in order to minimize legal fees.
The determination as to how much a parent should pay is outlined in the Colorado child support guidelines under Colorado Revised Statutes §14-10-115. The guidelines direct that the child should receive the same support they would have received in an intact household benefiting from both parents adjusted gross income.1
Parent’s gross income includes such sources as wages, self-employment income, and government benefits.2 When gross income cannot be properly determined the court may make a determination as to the potential income a parent could make. This future estimate of income is called imputed income.
A Parents Choices May Result in Imputed Income
Income imputation often applies when a parent makes an employment choice that reduces their income and would be detrimental to their child’s welfare.3
Colorado has broadly defined these situations as fitting into two general categories:
1) voluntary unemployment and 2) voluntary underemployment.
Voluntary unemployment is when a parent chooses to remain unemployed.4 The action of remaining unemployed despite being employable may result in income being imputed.
To prove voluntary unemployment the family law courts do not require that a parent show that a job exists or is available. The history of a parent’s employment will help the court to decide how to approach imputing income. For example, a person who is on unemployment, but made minimum wage may be ordered to pay an amount equal to a person who had a minimum wage job.
There are additional concerns for a parent who is facing imputed income due to voluntary unemployment. If a parent is taking action to avoid paying child support this action can be seen as the parent putting their interests in front of their child’s interest.
Actions to remain unemployed and avoid responsibility to care for a child are not in the child’s best interest and can have consequences such as reduced parenting time and decision making responsibilities.
Voluntary underemployment is where a parent takes temporary employment5 that is not intended to result in foreseeably higher income or the parent makes a career choice or seeks further education that unreasonably reduces support available6 and was not pursued in good faith.7
A common example of voluntary underemployment is reporting or taking less income from a business in order to lower child support payments. Imputing income is one way to overcome this issue.
In underemployment cases the court looks at a parent’s intent in order to fairly allocate child support between the parties. In general, to impute income, the court must only find the parent is “shirking” their child support obligation and then determine what the parent could reasonably contribute to support their child.8
Calculating the Amount of Imputed Income for Child Support
Once determinations as to whether a parent is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed is made then the court must calculate the amount to impute.
Calculating the gross income of an individual when it is not currently clear is a factual determination. The Court will look at past tax documents, pay stubs, bank statements, and other evidence providing the court with information of the parent’s income in order to calculate imputed child support.
To collect this evidence a parent may have to answer questions in a deposition, provide testimony in court, or hand-over documents for review by a professional, such as an attorney or CPA. Other parties, such as family members or business partners may be asked to provide information in order for the court to get a full picture of the potential income.
Taking the Next Step to Calculate Imputed Income Obligations
The next step is to meet with an attorney to review your situation and determine a strategy for dealing with imputed income in your child support case.
The attorney can estimate support obligations using the Child Support Worksheet and can discuss exceptions or issues personal to your case that may affect the amount you receive or pay.
We Can Help with Your Child Support Case
If you are faced with the possibility of the court making an imputed income determination as the amount you should receive or pay in child support you need to make sure you are properly represented by an attorney who can help you obtain a fair and reasonable determination.
At Cohen and Cohen, we can help you understand your rights, make important legal distinctions for better decisions, and provide you with professional representation. Speak to the Child Support Attorneys at Cohen & Cohen to see how our experience can help you pursue or defend your best interests.
To schedule an initial consultation to review your case with a Colorado Child Support Attorney at our convenient central Denver location call 303-933-4529.
2 – C.R.S. 14-10-115(5)(a)(I)(A)-(Z)
3 – People v. Martinez, 70 P.3d 474 (Colo. 2003)
4 – C.R.S. 14-10-115(5)(b)(I)
5 – In re Beyer, 789 P.2d 468 (Colo. App. 1989)
6 – In re Bregar, 952 P.2d 783 (Colo. App. 1997)
7 – C.R.S. 14-10-115(5)(b)(III)(A)-(C)
8 – People v. Martinez, 70 P.3d 474 (Colo. 2003)